Wondering Michelle Winner, Vice President of Marketing at Port Discovery takes her coffee? A little nutty. With steamed milk.

Kind of sounds like a metaphor for the museum itself, no? Slightly chaotic with a whole lot of wholesomeness.

Her days start early. 5:20 and she’s up, ready to hit the MAC. A literal kickstart to a high energy day.

“It’s where I get all my stress out,” said Michelle. “It’s my time. I love my classes.” Once she’s back home, her mom-side kicks in as she gets her two daughters off to school. By 7:45 she’s in the car and headed south on 83 to the museum. Lots to get done before the doors open to the public at 10 AM.

To say she is passionate about play would be an understatement. Michelle has an effusive personality — and her bubbly excitement ratchets up four notches when she starts talking about Port Discovery.

“So many of us have been here since the beginning,” said Michelle. She may have left the museum for a job with fewer weekend commitments for a few years while her children were very young,  but Michelle is very much a part of the story that is Port Discovery’s success over the last 15 years. It’s a relatively young museum, having only been open in the historic Fish Market building since 1998.

It’s now one of the top Children’s museums in the country and has served over 4 million guests.

“I feel like the  museum is really hitting it’s prime,” said Michelle. “We’re now taking what we know out on the road.”

Coffee with Michelle Winner, Port Discovery - (cool) progeny #coffeewith #coolprogeny #baltimoremoms

An example? The new Lego exhibit. Not only can kids get in on the constructive action in the museum, the museum is working on companion educational programs that will take the building experience into schools and into local neighborhoods. There may be a contest of sorts in the works. And maybe even an opportunity to creatively recycle some of your old lego sets. You know, the ones you’re no longer cursing at in the middle of the night when you step on them because your kids have moved on to a new and ‘better’ lego set? {{wink, wink}}

What work accomplishment is she most proud of? Her team. Small, but nimble — and fiercely loyal.

But being nimble means job responsibilities aren’t necessarily silo-ed. From planning events to going after corporate sponsors to editing press releases, the days are never quite the same. The marketing department team is small: it’s Michelle, a public relations specialist, and a graphic designer.

“I don’t mind wearing a lot of hats,” said Michelle. “I like the challenge.”

Michelle knew in high school she wanted to go into advertising. She met her husband while working at The Leffler Agency. When things started looking serious and the prospect of moving in together was tossed around, they decided living and working together might be too much. That’s when the opportunity at Port Discovery emerged. When she sat down for her interview with now-President and CEO Bryn Parchman, they discovered they had a mutual acquaintance — agency founder Bob Leffler. And while Bryn didn’t let her neighbor Bob know about the rockstar candidate she had interviewed for the marketing position, he found out after Michelle was offered the job — and took it.

Smalltimore.

To kick back, Michelle binges on Food Network with her daughters and bakes. Cookies, cakes — you name it. But as much as she likes weilding a muffin tin or pastry bag of frosting, she’s not big on cooking. Slow cooking is her winning strategy for weeknight family meals.

“I’ll often cook on the weekends for the week,” said Michelle. “Anything I can throw in a crock pot. We love french dip sandwiches and things like that.”

{Of course, this is the point in our conversation where I had to shamelessly plug our recent lentil stew recipe. Because it’s ah-mazing in the crockpot.}

If they aren’t watching Master Chef Junior in their down time, Michelle and her family are probably playing a game. Boggle and old-school Life are two family favorites. Michelle also loves curling up with a good book and oftentimes one of her daughters will join her. Each curled up under the covers, paging through a new read. It’s those quiet moments that seem to be relished most.

“I know she won’t always want to do that, so I’m going to enjoy it. Every time.”